Catch up TV review: Van Der Valk, NHS Heroes, Harley Quinn
James R | On 10, May 2020
Van Der Valk (ITV Hub)
From Hustle to Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Marc Warren is one of those actors who’s always worth watching – not least because he tends to play slightly strange individuals. Here, that strange individual is Simon Van Der Valk, the cop who was lost on screens about three decades ago and is being brought back by ITV. Troubled, downcast and a little cranky, he’s like most TV detectives we see on our screens – the difference being that he’s in Amsterdam. Because yes, this, like Maigret and a host of other TV detective shows, is one of those shows that’s set abroad but has everyone played by Brits speaking in English. Also like Maigret, though, it’s worth tuning in to see Warren get a deserved leading role. The case he’s rebooted for is a double homicide that has political connections, and while that doesn’t prove hugely memorable, it does give Warren a wealth of opportunities to dispatch sharp one-liners at his colleagues and flirt outrageously with suspects. He’s having a ball with the closest he’ll come to 007 in his career, and the backdrop is a nice novelty. Whether that promise can build to something more substantial and distinctive, though, is a tougher case to crack.
NHS Heroes: Fighting to Save Our Lives (All 4)
Why do people clap on their doorsteps at 8pm every Thursday for the NHS? This documentary makes it clear just how heroic the medical professionals saving lives across the country are, as it takes us on to the front line in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. They’re experts and familiar with ventilating people in ICU, they reassure us, while also noting that this is like nothing they’ve seen before – and the trepidation, stress and fear they face as they put on protective gear and brace themselves to step on to the ward is really quite horrifying. The bravery and resilience, though, is remarkable, not least as they also find the time and space to record this all on smartphones, before an expert editing team craft a moving and clear story from the jumbled, urgent footage. “You go home feeling guilty,” one remarks, as they take on the pain of the country and know that they can’t do more than they are doing – and would be unable to keep helping people if they were to get infected. But beneath it all is an anger at the situation and a raw trauma that’s buried beneath their over-worked empathy. “I hope when this is all over, people are going to be held accountable,” says one nurse, talking about the government and how it’s handled the crisis. It’s a reminder that the victims of these pandemic aren’t just those infected – and that while clapping every week may be a cathartic act of routine and a united display of gratitude, a cry for some more PPE would be more powerful.
Harley Quinn (All 4)
Several weeks after Season 2 premiered on DC Universe in the US, the animated series Harley Quinn arrives in the UK, courtesy of E4. The timing actually works in the show’s favour, coming to our screens hot on the heels of Birds of Prey, Harley’s solo feature outing after the misjudged Suicide Squad. There, Margot Robbie highlighted the power of the female supervillain getting a chance to step out of Joker’s shadow, and Paul Dini and Bruce Timm’s adult series takes much of the same tone, as it introduces us to Harley as she breaks things off with “Mr. J”. It leans into its adult rating, with an arguably unnecessary amount of grotesque violence, but Kaley Cuoco’s vocals have the energy to pull off the hyperactive style. Where the show succeeds, though, is in its portrait of female friendship, as Lake Bell plays Poison Ivy, Harley’s sole confidante and the one who opens her eyes to the abusive relationship that has been holding her captive for years. Her realisation of that unhealthy, unfair bond is what gives this animation substance beneath its garish surface – fans of Birds of Prey will be pleased by this chance to get to know the DC Comics character in more detail.